Frequently asked questions (patients and supporters)
In this section, we answer questions which patients, families, carers and other supporters frequently ask about the hearing process.
What does ‘involuntary patient’ mean?
An ‘involuntary patient’ is a patient who receives psychiatric treatment without consent under the Mental Health Act 2014 (WA) (Act).
A psychiatrist makes a patient ‘involuntary’ by making an ‘involuntary treatment order’. The order may require the patient to stay in hospital (an ‘inpatient treatment order’) or to get treatment in the community (a ‘community treatment order’).
What happens after a psychiatrist makes an ‘involuntary treatment order’?
Copies of all involuntary treatment orders are sent to the Mental Health Tribunal (Tribunal). The Tribunal is an independent decision-making body created by Parliament to protect patients from potential abuse of the powers under the Act.
The Tribunal’s main job is to review every new involuntary treatment order made by psychiatrists in Western Australia within 35 days (10 days for children under 18). The Tribunal reviews each order again regularly (every three months for adults and every 28 days for children). The purpose of the Tribunal’s review is to determine whether the patient still needs the involuntary treatment order.
What does the Tribunal do with the order?
Tribunal Registry staff open a file and schedule the patient for a review hearing. The hearing will be listed on a date within 35 days of the date of the order (10 days for children).
What is a hearing?
A hearing is a meeting where the Tribunal listens to the participants’ views and then makes a decision about whether the patient still needs the involuntary treatment order.
I received a 'Notice of Hearing'. What do I do now?
Your Notice of Hearing tells you when and where your hearing will take place. You have a right to attend your hearing to tell the Tribunal Members your views and wishes, and we want to hear from you!
It is easy to attend your hearing. You can attend in person by going to the place indicated in the Notice at the time of the hearing.
If you have difficulty getting around, or if you just prefer to attend the hearing from home, you may be able to attend by telephone or by video-conference using your computer, tablet or smart phone. Please email the Tribunal at email@example.com for information on how to attend from home.
If you do not want to attend your hearing at all, you can still tell the Tribunal Members your views and wishes by completing this form and sending it to the Tribunal before your hearing.
If you need support for your hearing, call the Mental Health Advocacy Service on (08) 6234 6300. You may also be entitled to a free lawyer from the Mental Health Law Centre. Call them on 1800 620 285.
I got a Notice of Hearing when I was an inpatient/community patient, but now I am a community patient/voluntary patient. Will my hearing still take place?
The Tribunal schedules hearings about 2-3 weeks in advance. Your condition may change in those 2-3 weeks, and you may be discharged on a CTO or become a voluntary patient before the hearing date.
If you are discharged as an involuntary patient (on a CTO) before the hearing date, your hearing will take place as scheduled. Please plan to attend at the time and place indicated in the Notice. Because you probably will not have been reviewed by the community team before the hearing, the hearing will usually take place at the hospital and the hospital treating team will participate.
If you are discharged as a voluntary patient (no CTO) before the hearing takes place, the Tribunal will cancel your hearing and send you a Notice of Cancellation. The Tribunal cannot hold the hearing if you are a voluntary patient.
Where is the hearing held and who can attend?
The Tribunal usually holds its hearings at the hospital or health service treating the patient. This is for the convenience of participants only. The Tribunal is independent and is not part of the treating team or the health service. Sometimes the hearing is held by videoconference rather than in-person.
Hearings are private and only some people may attend. These usually include:
- the patient;
- the patient’s carer, close family member, or other personal supporter;
- someone chosen by the patient to attend;
- the patient’s representatives (a legal practitioner, mental health advocate, or other advocate approved by the Tribunal); and
- the treating team (the psychiatrist and a case manager or nurse).
However, if there is an objection to your attendance at the hearing, the Tribunal may require you to leave.
Where required, the Tribunal will provide a translator for the patient at the hearing.
The Tribunal does not always receive contact details for carers, close family members or others. We recommend that carers, close family members and other interested people email their contact details to the Tribunal. If you are entitled to be notified of the hearing and we have your contact details, we will notify you of the date, time and location of the hearing.
I can't attend on the hearing date. Can you change it?
I am concerned that my involvement may upset the patient but would like to participate in the hearing. What do I do?
This is a matter for your own judgement. We suggest you discuss your concerns with the treating team.
I have questions about the hearing process. Who should I speak to?
The Tribunal provides comprehensive information about the hearing process on this website. Please check here first.
If you still have questions, please contact the Tribunal Registry staff on (08) 6553 0060. Registry staff are not lawyers and cannot provide legal advice.
I am a guardian appointed by the State Administrative Tribunal. Will I be invited to the hearing?
The Tribunal encourages guardians to attend hearings. However, we are not notified when a guardian is appointed. We recommend that guardians email a copy of the Guardianship Order and their contact details to the Tribunal. We will then notify you of the date, time and location of the hearing.
Please note that if there is an objection to your attendance at the hearing, the Tribunal may require you to leave.
I want to give the Tribunal information about the patient. How do I do this and will the patient be allowed to hear/read it?
You may provide a submission in writing to the Tribunal at least three days before the hearing date by sending it to firstname.lastname@example.org Alternatively, if you are a person who is permitted to attend the hearing, you may make an oral submission to the Tribunal at the hearing.
The Tribunal is bound by the rules of natural justice (often referred to as procedural fairness). The hearing process must be fair. Generally, this means that information relied upon by the Tribunal in making its decision should be available to the patient and the patient should have the opportunity to comment on it. It may be unfair for the Tribunal to rely on a medical report or other information that the patient has not seen.
If the document is in the possession of the health service, contact the treating psychiatrist to ask whether they intend to provide it to the Tribunal. If so, there are certain safeguards in the Mental Health Act which may apply. The treating psychiatrist will manage this process.
If the document is not in the possession of the health service (and you do not want them to have it), you may request in writing that the Tribunal does not disclose the document to the patient. You should tell the Tribunal why you think the document should not be released to the patient. Whether it needs to be disclosed will then become a preliminary issue to be determined by the Tribunal as a question of procedural fairness. This is a matter for the Tribunal to consider in all of the facts and circumstances of the case and would be considered at the hearing.
In the meanwhile, the information is held by the Registry and will not be accessed by the Tribunal members or released to the patient.
If you have made a request that the Tribunal does not disclose the document to the patient then you should plan to attend the hearing to discuss your request with the Tribunal members.
I want to speak to the Tribunal members privately before the hearing to give them information which I can't say in front of the patient at the hearing. How do I arrange this?
Members of the Tribunal are unable to speak to hearing participants outside of the hearing.
This is because the Tribunal is bound by the rules of natural justice (often referred to as procedural fairness). The hearing process must be fair. Generally, this means that information relied upon by the Tribunal in making its decision should be available to the patient and the patient should have the opportunity to comment on it. It may be unfair for the Tribunal to rely on information that the patient has not seen or heard.
If you have information which you believe the Tribunal should know, but you are unwilling to say it in the presence of the patient during the hearing, you may ask the Tribunal during the hearing for permission to make a confidential submission. The Tribunal will then consider whether it is fair, in all of the facts and circumstances of the case, for you to provide the information without permitting the patient the opportunity to comment on it.
If you have not already discussed the information with the treating team, we strongly encourage you to do so.
What happens if the Tribunal decides at the hearing that the patient is still in need of the involuntary treatment order?
After the initial (first) review, the Tribunal will review the order again every three months (28 days for children) whilst it remains in place (periodic reviews). If a patient remains on a community treatment order for more than one year, the Tribunal will review the order every 6 months thereafter. Periodic review hearings are scheduled automatically. The same listing and notification process applies to initial and periodic reviews.
May I get a hearing transcript? What is the cost?
Access to Tribunal transcripts is very limited. This is because of the strict privacy and confidentiality requirements surrounding Tribunal hearings under the Mental Health Act 2014.
Requests for transcripts made by a patient, or on behalf of the patient by a patient’s representative (legal practitioner, mental health advocate, or nominated person), will be granted only in exceptional circumstances. If you need a transcript of your hearing, please complete a request form in pdf or word and send it to the Tribunal for consideration. The Tribunal does not usually charge for transcripts in such cases.
Other participants attending the hearing (such as the treating team, carers, close family members, and friends) are not entitled to transcripts for confidentiality reasons.
I disagree with the Tribunal’s decision and want to appeal. What do I do?
The State Administrative Tribunal hears appeals of the Tribunal’s decisions. Only patients and those who have been given permission by the State Administrative Tribunal may apply for a review of a Tribunal decision. For more information please contact the State Administrative Tribunal on (08) 9219 3111 or 1300 306 017 (cost of a local call) or visit their website.
Page reviewed 13 March 2023